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They Smile Still

Irish eyes, that is.

14 months ago, Padraig Harrington was a very good player.

In the intervening months he has become an icon.

Harrington’s victory at the PGA Championship at diabolical, Oakland Hills, was stunning golf. After trailing the hapless, Sergio Garcia for most of the day, Harrington made three huge putts on the 16th, 17th and 18th. greens to seal a two shot victory.

It was a battle for the ages with both players playing one magnificent shot after the other. It was compelling theater in which no matter who you were rooting for, you wished that there were no loser.

Sergio Garcia played brilliantly as evidenced by his last two rounds of 69 and 68 on a course that many players believe to be the hardest Championship lay-out in the world. Showing a new maturity and making several clutch putts (up until recently, his nemesis), Garcia proved that like a good wine, he is maturing with age. His time will come.

Ben Curtis also played with a great deal of heart. Starting the fourth round as the 54 hole leader, Curtis shot a brave 71 which under most circumstances would have been the winning score. Curtis was the shock winner of the Open Championship fives years ago and was immediately labeled as a “one hit wonder”.

Since that time he has won two more PGA Tour events and played his way onto this year’s Ryder Cup team with his second place finish yesterday. Curtis has never been given the respect due of his resume but his play at this Championship should prove to one and all that he belongs in the top echelon of American players.

If the golf world has been looking for a replacement for the injured Tiger; it has just found it’s man. Padraig Harrington tamed the mighty Oakland Hills with a pair of 66’s on the weekend. This on a course that most players reckoned a par score of 70, to be remarkable.

In doing so, Harrington becomes the first European player in 74 years to win the PGA, and the only one ever, to win the Open and PGA back to back. Combined with his stirring win at last year’s open Championship, that gives Harrington, three of the last 6, Major Championships.

At 36, Harrington has a very good chance to eclipse, Nick Faldo’s 6 Majors, the most by European-born players, before he retires.
It wasn’t very long ago, that Harrington was the ‘heartbreak kid’ as evidenced by his 17 runner-up finishes while only recording three wins on the European Tour. His sheer will to win and his devotion to improve have made him, a superstar. This everyday man has become the golfer that every man would like to be like.